Mice On Metformin Live Longer, New Evidence Diabetes Drug Extends Life

There's more evidence out that metformin could help you live longer -- at least if you're a mouse. A study published yesterday in Nature Communications showed that giving low doses of the widely prescribed diabetes type 2 pill to middle-aged male mice extended their lifespan by 5 percent.

And, as a bonus, the extra time was healthier, since the metformin also delayed the onset of age-related diseases. The study was carried out by the National Institute on Aging.

The team noted that: "Treatment with metformin mimics some of the benefits of calorie restriction, such as improved physical performance, increased insulin sensitivity, and reduced low-density lipoprotein and cholesterol levels without a decrease in caloric intake."

In other words, the drug may offer some of the benefits of not eating as much -- without forcing a person to actually cut back on food in a world of temptation.

A Genetics Engineering News report noted that the metformin seemed to protect against damage from anti-oxidants and chronic inflammation that might otherwise accelerate aging in the mice.

In late March, the UK's University College London published a study showing that metformin also extends the life of a tiny worm. The researchers suggested that the metformin interacted with the worm's gut bacteria to stop it from digesting food as efficiently.

So now we have metformin proven to mimic the life-extending effects of calorie restriction in two widely unrelated species. It's getting interesting, folks.

Metformin is a fascinating candidate for a longevity drug because it's a generic that was first approved for human use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 1958. The patent expired in 2002. And that makes it cheap.

If metformin does turn out to extend the human lifespan, then it will be something that middle-class people can buy -- not just the super-rich.

However, the National Institute on Aging team warned that they will need more research to see if humans taking metformin live longer.

[photo credit: Nils J. via photopin cc]